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Avs top Canucks 4-3 to clinch playoff berth

by John Kreiser

The Colorado Avalanche got a chance to draft Matt Duchene last summer after the worst season since the team moved from Quebec in 1995. On Tuesday night, the rookie center shot them back into the playoffs.

Duchene beat Roberto Luongo for the only goal of the shootout, lifting Colorado to a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The victory, combined with Calgary's 2-1 loss to San Jose, clinched the last playoff berth in the West for the surprising Avs.

Colorado was last in the West and 28th in the 30-team League in 2008-09. Duchene, selected third in the draft, and free-agent goaltender Craig Anderson helped the Avs get off to a fast start that enabled them to survive a late slump.

Duchene, just 1-for-6 in shootouts, deked Luongo to the ice and lifted the puck just under the crossbar.

"I've done that move lots of times. I've used it in juniors," he said. "He's a great goalie. You've got to get him moving."

Coach Joe Sacco said it was appropriate that Duchene got the clincher.

"It's pretty fitting," the first-year coach said. "He's the kind of kid who wants the puck on his stick in those situations. He wants to make a difference."

Anderson also made a difference -- as he did all season, stopping 28 shots through 65 minutes and all three in the shootout.

The Avalanche then ended a four-game road skid by handing the Canucks their ninth home loss and eliminating the Calgary Flames, who lost to 2-1 San Jose earlier in the evening. The Avs rallied to beat the Sharks in OT on Sunday, ending a four-game slide that jeopardized their playoff hopes.

"Our goal all season was to make the playoffs and silence all the critics who said we were going to be 14th or 15th in the West," Duchene said. "To now clinch a playoff spot -- it feels amazing."

Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the game on a power play with 4:06 left to tie it, taking a feed from twin brother Henrik on a 3-on-2 rush and snapping a far-side shot over the glove. It was the 107th point of the season for Henrik, who drew both defenders before dishing off on his backhand; he now leads Washington's Alex Ovechkin by one point.

Darcy Tucker opened the scoring 6:17 into the game after Canucks defenseman Alex Edler gave the puck away to him in the Vancouver end and compounded the mistake by screening Luongo on Tucker's low shot. Daniel Sedin tied it with 2:01 left after a strange bounce off the end boards stranded Anderson and left him with an empty net, but the Avalanche retook the lead 63 seconds later when Luongo misplayed T.J. Galiardi's backhander from the slot into his own net.

Mason Raymond tied it again on a 2-on-1 seven minutes into the second period, beating Anderson, who became the first goalie in franchise history to play 70 games.

Paul Stastny put the Avalanche ahead again on a 2-on-1 feed from Chris Stewart, who made a saucer pass over diving defenseman Shane O'Brien for his second assist of the game. Stastny, who also had an assist to match his career high with 78 points, deked around a sprawled Luongo before scoring his 20th of the season.

The Canucks rallied to force OT and the shootout, though they're locked into third place in the West.

"It was a hard-fought game cause those guys were desperate on the other side," Luongo said. "I thought we played good and it was a good battle on both sides but we weren't able to get that extra point."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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